Born in Tulu Speaking Bunt family of landlords, Alva was a medical practitioner who earned the degree M. B. B. S. prior to entering politics. His political career began when he was elected to the Karnataka Legislative Assembly in 1957 representing the Suratkal constituency. In 1962 he was reelected to Karnataka Legislative Assembly and, during this tenure, he served as Minister of Health in the State Government of Mysore (now known as Karnataka). In 1970 he was elected to Rajya Sabha, the upper house of India's Parliament (The Sansad) and served a full term of six years until 1976. His son, Jeevaraj_Alva too served as member of Karnataka Legislative Assembly and Minister in Ramakrishna Hegde administration. He was married to Kalyani Alva and had four children (three sons and a daughter).